A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother (Proverbs 10:1 NIV).
Whoever keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons shames his father (Proverbs 28:7 NKJV).
Most Christian parents desire to see their children grow up into responsible, God-honoring adults. We never want the negative aspects of the scripture verses above to be fulfilled in our families. But how do we raise children whose lives please God, bless society and bring us joy?
First of all, it is important to say that raising God-honoring children is no easy task. It takes deliberate effort and consistent focus. Just as we plan and act precisely when seeking to accomplish goals in other spheres of life, we must prepare ourselves and act intentionally if we want to truly raise our children for the Lord. The Word of God gives us lots of direction and help for raising such children. In a particular scripture (Proverbs 22:6), it says that we should train our children in the way they should go and when we do this, we will find that they will not depart from those paths in their later years.
To train is to educate; therefore, training a child to live a life that honours God and blesses others implies educating them in God’s ways early on in life. Anyone who has taken courses or graduated from a tertiary institution would agree that obtaining tertiary education is not easy. College or university courses and programs are not designed to be passed without significant investment of time and effort; no one who studies for few minutes each day ends up with good grades. Similarly, no one who desires to produce God-glorifying children can get by with minimal exposure to the things of God. If we desire to have children who do not depart from the Lord, the Bible says that we must immerse them in God-centered training early in life.
Parents, Church or School?
Today, many Christian parents relinquish the task of training their children in the Lord’s ways (which includes raising them to become responsible and productive citizens in the society) to the Church, Christian schools, or other third parties. They believe that getting their children involved in programmes at Church, sending them to Christian schools, or placing them in the care of Christian caregivers fulfill the command to raise their children for the Lord. But this is an error that leads to disappointments.
The Bible is clear about the fact that the primary responsibility for raising children lies with parents. This is evidenced by the fact that most biblical instructions and examples about directing children to God are given in the context of the family. Children are instructed to obey and honor their parents that their days may be long and parents are instructed to love their children and bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Parents are instructed to live right before God and to impart the same way of life, by example and teaching, to their children. Parents are also encouraged to trust God for their day-to-day needs and thereby demonstrate to their children that He is dependable. They are to model a vibrant walk with Him in full view of their children.
This parent-child “school” is the foundation for raising God-honoring children and no other institution is as capable of providing this form of education as the family. Although the Church provides extensive support to families, it cannot take the primary responsibility for the spiritual nurture of our children because they only spend a fraction of their time there. Christian schools and Christian caregivers are also great sources of blessing, but they do not replace the parents’ role in raising their children for the Lord.
Steps that Facilitate Raising God-Honoring Children
What then can we do in our homes to give our children a solid Christian foundation that will enable them to fulfill God’s purposes for their lives and positively impact their world?
- Live true Christian lives. More than anything else, our children learn life from what they see us do; they copy our words, actions and attitudes. If our lives model a quest to know and serve God wholeheartedly and to represent Him honorably, they will copy and aspire to the same.
- Lead our children into God’s presence daily. Leading our children in prayer and Bible study everyday teaches them truths about God and paves the way for a personal relationship with Him.
- Shield them from influences that teach rebellion against God and lead away from Him. Programs and entertainment that oppose Biblical values should be seriously avoided in the formative years of our children’s lives. These should be replaced with God-glorifying programmes and resources that provide age-appropriate entertainment in a way that does not destroy their budding faith in God.
When Christian children begin school, they are typically bombarded with an avalanche of secular materials for several hours each day. Their opportunities for learning about God are significantly reduced in this season. In fact, in several developed nations they are subtly or overtly discouraged from revering or exalting God. As parents, we should therefore be mindful to use the early years of their lives and their after-school hours (once they start school) as a time to prepare them mentally and spiritually for this anti-God battle. For example, we should provide songs, videos, games, websites and stories that reinforce the message of God’s love and power as part of their daily at-home entertainment. In this way, we equip them to resist the ideas of people who defy God or question His existence.
- Lead them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ early in life. This is the most valuable gift Christian parents can give to their children. Salvation makes our children’s hearts alive to God and empowers them to live for Him. It also gives them access to the blessings that are available to believers in Christ Jesus. To be counted as His, children need to make their own personal decision to follow Jesus Christ as soon as they are able to understand the gospel message. Unfortunately, many Christian parents do not take this issue seriously; they assume their children will someday be led to the Lord by the Church. But what if, for one reason or another, the child misses the opportunity to get saved in church?
The salvation of our children’s souls is too important to be left to chance. If any of us had $10 million held in trust for them, we would probably take very meticulous steps to ensure that they receive this inheritance when they come of age. We would leave nothing to chance. In the same way, we should take meticulous steps to ensure that our children are offered the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior once they are able to comprehend the gospel message. We can obtain counsel and direction for this by speaking to mature believers who have led their children down similar paths.
- Pray and confess God’s Word over them. Praying for our children invites God’s presence and power into their lives. It helps them to overcome the challenges they encounter in their world and graces them to live righteously. Praying for our children also helps draw their hearts closer to God and sets them on the path of His purposes for them. Confessing scriptures over our children helps to establish God’s will in their lives. The Bible teaches that our words carry the power to minister life or death (Proverbs 18:21). While raising our children for the Lord, we can put this power to good use by speaking promises drawn from God’s Word over their lives and circumstances.
For insights on training children in accordance with their God-given personalities, please read my article, Our Children, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.
 May not apply to Christian schools